New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, November 11, 2009.
Q: This game is quarterback versus quarterback and everybody hypes it as Brady versus Manning.
TB: Well, it's not that. It's two football teams who play a lot and we seem to play every year. For a while, we were part of the same division and through the years we've had plenty of our most critical games against them. It's a great rivalry and I think it's for a lot of reasons. It's usually the same cast of characters over there that we're facing and they're having a great year, being 8-0 and they're way on top of their division. [They are] undefeated, you rattle off all of the stats - Coach [Bill] Belichick did that to us this morning. It's a fun game for the players, there's no mistaking that.
Q: There's been quite a bit of turnover in the locker room from those 2003, 2004 teams that played against the Colts in the playoffs. Are there ways that guys like you and others who were around in those days can articulate what is was like to some of the younger players on the team? Or does that even happen?
TB: The guys that have been around know it matters. I think those younger guys get up to speed. Like I said, we played them last year, and the year before that, and the year before that and the year before that. So they get up to speed pretty quickly and Coach Belichick always does a pretty good job of showing old clips from some of those old games when we played well or didn't play so well. Their style is pretty much their style and that hasn't changed for a long time. They're productive in all areas with [Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis on defense and Bob Sanders, of course, but now he's out. And then Peyton [Manning], and Reggie [Wayne], and [Joseph] Addai and [Dallas] Clark, they've got everybody.
Q: Do you compare this Patriots-Colts rivalry to a Michigan-Ohio State?
TB: Michigan-Ohio State is much bigger. [Laughs] Yeah, probably. We've had a pretty good run here and so have they. You're talking about two of the better teams that have played in the league for the last decade. Like I said, it's probably because there have been so many critical games, that's why it's … Even though they're not in our division, we know them so well. And they know us so well, which is not usually the case.
Q: You and Peyton Manning have kind of been compared to Larry Bird-Magic Johnson …
TB: Which one am I? Bird or Magic?
Q: Can you appreciate that you two are sharing the same era?
TB: Yeah, I'm always keeping up on Peyton. We talk from time to time. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, and for the role model that he is, the way that he carries himself, the way the he leads the team, and the way he's a representative for the league, and all of those things. It was his third year in the league when I was a rookie and it was pretty much my first start came against the Colts. Peyton came over on our field and said, 'Hey, I'm Peyton Manning.' I said, 'No shit.' We ended up winning that game, but it's a great contest for us. I think the great thing about playing the Colts is that you really see where you are as a team. We've made some improvements, we all feel that we've made some improvements over the last five, six weeks and this is really where you get put to the test, with a team that can play well in all phases. They can score points. They're leading the league in defense. So it's a lot of fun for us.
Q: Do you remember much about that first meeting?
TB: It was pretty brief. We were both getting warmed up and he was probably on his 100th throw of the day, two hours before the game. It was a pretty quick meeting.
Q: [On the hype in the matchup between quarterbacks]
TB: The matchups for the quarterbacks, that's probably more for everybody else than it is for us. For me, it's more of those defensive guys. I'm always watching, certainly. When you play them, you know that it's going to come down to a couple of plays. It's going to come down to plays in the red area, some of those plays on third, because you know they're going to move the ball. It's not like he's going to go out there and throw for 75 yards. He's probably going to throw for 300 yards. They're going to get down in the red area, it's just that you have to keep them out in the red area and you have to take advantage of situational football that you have. You can't turn the ball over. The game's where it's gotten out of hand - one way or another - it's because of turnovers. We've turned it over, they've turned it over; that's when you start seeing those 14-point wins, those 21-point wins. But, you know, you've go to go out there and play pretty good football. There are not a lot of mistakes you can make. Every time - for a quarterback, for me, for example - dropping back with Freeney and Mathis, those are two of the most explosive players on the team they have. They have a bunch of forced fumbles. They force quarterbacks to throw into tight coverage, much faster than we want to throw the ball into, which leads to bad decisions.
Q: You've alluded in the past to talking to Peyton Manning at functions that you've both been at and that you've talked football. What kinds of things related to football have you talked about?
TB: Yeah, we'll talk about games, we'll talk about strategy, we'll talk about players, we'll talk about how he prepares, how I prepare, certain teams that we play. It kind of runs the gamut. There are a lot of things. He's got a great knowledge of the game, he really studies it and understands it, and he understands what he does well and what his team does well. He's been in the same system, like I have, for a long time and that's a great advantage for the quarterback, not having to change the terminology or the reads. That's a great thing for a QB.
Q: You've also said that you exchanged text messages with Peyton while you were out with your injury last year, and his experience with a knee injury. What kinds of things did you talk about?
TB: Yeah, he had a staph infection, too. I was trying to get the exact staff that he had so that I could figure out the treatment. But that is a true story. I called him and I said, 'Tell me about your knee and what you went through with all of that.' He provided a little bit of insight. He was very encouraging, always has been. He's just that kind of guy; he's a very classy guy.
Q: What has enable you and Randy Moss to get back on the same page together so quickly after missing all of last season?
TB: We know each other pretty well. We have a great relationship on the field, off the field. He's a very smart football player and I think we give him a lot of opportunities to do the things that he does well. A lot of quarterbacks can throw him the ball and he makes everybody look good. Plays like the one last week, with the long touchdown, a pretty simple play for a quarterback, but he turns it into a 70-yard touchdown, which was a huge play in the game. And so was the two-point conversion, which was equally as important, but he made that look pretty easy also. From my standpoint, it's pretty easy when those guys are running those routes, with Wes [Welker], and Randy, and the way that Sam's [Aiken] really stepped in and some of the other receivers we've had out there, complimenting Randy and Wes. Those two are the primary guys that we're always looking for. Randy's been a great threat since he's been here.
Q: Obviously, both yourself and Peyton have played in the same type of system for a long time and had success. Do you feel that either of you could go to any type of system and be as successful as you've been in your present system?
TB: Well, I think over time the system becomes ... Obviously, when I got here, I had to learn what we were doing and learn the plays. And they drafted me because I could do some of the things they ask a quarterback to do. But over time that also kind of morphs into what you do well. There's nothing that we have in our offense at this point that Coach Belichick doesn't feel that I could probably do well and execute, whether that's throws that are 65 yards down the field, or certain other throws. And it's similar to Peyton, what he's done and what he's accomplished inside of that offense is because he can do all of those things well. If he couldn't do them, probably in year two, they would have thrown those things out of the playbook. Which we've done plenty of those things here, early on, that we developed through when Charlie [Weis] was here, and then when Josh [McDaniels] was here and up until this point.
Q: Do you expect that Coach Caldwell will have some wrinkles to throw at you that you haven't seen before?
TB: Yeah, probably. They always seem to have something new. It's not a big, you have to figure out what they're doing, type of defense. They kind of line up, and they play, and they say, 'This is where we're at and see if you can block us.' And not many teams can block them. That's kind of the remarkable part about Freeney and Mathis is that every offense is going into those games thinking, 'We can't let those guys ruin the game.' And, sure enough, that's what they do. As an offense, you have to be prepared for the things that they do well - which is obviously their pass rush - and counteract that with things that you do well. They'll have some new wrinkles. They always find a way to mix up some of their tendencies. But in the end - through eight games - that's really what they do. All of that's on film now.
Q: It really seems like some defenses will get down in their set and play out of that and other defenses move around the line at lot and have players moving around. As a quarterback, which is easier to play against and which do you prefer?
TB: Well, you know, both have their strengths and weaknesses. Like everything, if you chose for example to line up and play one coverage all day, like the Miami Dolphins used to do, they can practice against your core plays all week in practice because they're pretty much lined up in the same defense, they have the same look, they have the same read. If you run 10 different coverages, the chance of them practicing a play that you're going to run in the game is almost nothing. If we have 50 plays and they have 10 defenses, you do the math - I can't do the math, maybe you guys can. But if you're playing the same defense you can get those looks. Some of the best defenses that you face are the Colts and Miami - and obviously the Jets and Baltimore, they have their own style that's very unique to them, and you need a certain kind of player to fit that role. Like Dwight Freeney, he lines up and he rushes the passer. That's what they want him doing, they don't want him dropping 15 yards into coverage, unfortunately. I wish they did, but they want him to rush and you build your team around the style and the scheme of your defense and the Colts have done a remarkable job at that.
Q: When Dan Koppen went down in the game Sunday and Dan Connolly stepped in, how comfortable are you working with a center that you haven't had much time to receive snaps from?
TB: I'm very comfortable and he's been there through most of training camp, he's rotated in their at guard, he's played at fullback, he returned a kickoff last week, so he can kind of do it all for us. He stepped in and did a great job. It's not an easy thing to do to step in at center and make all of the calls. You go from being out of the game to being that guy that makes all of the line calls, and all of the adjustments and all of the Mike [linebacker] points with me. The communication is really important and obviously getting the ball to the quarterback is most important, whether that's under center or in the shotgun. I thought he did a great job of that.
Q: A lot of the linemen around here have kind of worked their way up through the practice squad and onto the roster. Does Connolly remind you at all of Russ Hochstein and all of the things that he did?
TB: Yeah, it's probably a good comparison. Russ [Hochstein] was a very dependable, consistent player for us that did a lot of different things. He was very flexible within the scheme of the offense. It's not a very easy system for offensive linemen to pick up and they have a great coach in Dante [Scarnecchia] that works those guys really hard. I'm sure you guys see it at training camp. He expects a lot out of those guys. He really puts the pressure on those guys to learn every spot on the line, so that when they are put in, like this, like with Sea Bass [Sebastian Vollmer] a few weeks ago, or Connolly this time, or [Nick] Kaczur at one point stepped in, and Russ had to step in at times when he was here, and they just need to step in and keep things moving along.
Q: I know you didn't play in the game there last year, but do you know of any change in the noise level between the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium?
TB: Well, when they're on TV, I watch them. Communication is a problem for the offense, there's no doubt about that. Any dome is typically loud. The RCA Dome was exceptionally loud, you couldn't hear anything in there. I've heard that this is a fairly loud stadium. They have great fans. The RCA Dome was - I think from what I hear - a little bit louder, Peyton actually told me that. But this one sounds much more luxurious.